Essential Holiday Travel Tips

The holiday season is upon us. Everybody panic!!! Okay, now chill out. You have probably experienced some crazy, stressful, exhausting holidays in the past, but those days are over. Back then you didn’t check with us for awesome holiday travel tips. Eliminate hassle and extenuated ease by following our essential holiday travel tips.

Book Early and Avoid Peak Travel Days

It might be too late for you to be able to follow these two tips this year, but for next year, you are going to be in awesome shape. You know when Christmas is ahead of time – it is always the 25th of December. This never changes. Lock your holiday plans in early and buy tickets right away. This will also let you pick from the widest selection of travel days. Avoid peak travel days at all cost. Fridays and Mondays close to Christmas are your biggest enemy. Booking a redeye flight several days before Christmas will help you save money and reduce anxiety.

Pack Light

Our advice is, avoid checking bags. Not only will many airlines hit you with a hefty $60-80 fee for checking bags, it could also add hours on to your commute. Plus, who hasn’t had an airline lose one of their bags before? That is always miserable. If you are traveling for Christmas, pack your clothing in a carryon and ship presents to your destination ahead of time. You are probably traveling to a family members home, so if you can’t fit something in your carryon, just make them provide it for you. It is family after all.

Plan your Travel Day

Many travelers are great at coming up with a big picture plan, but they forget to account for small details. Remember to secure transportation to and from the airport. Again, this is what family and friends are for. It is the holiday season, so there is no way they can keep a clean conscious and decline your request.

Learning about Government: The Department of the Treasury

The Department of the Treasury is tied with the State Department as the oldest federal executive department in the United States. It was founded in 1789 through an Act of Congress and tasked to manage all government revenue. Alexander Hamilton was nominated as the first Secretary of the Treasury by President George Washington. He was not actually President Washington’s preferred selection for the post. Robert Morris, who was ask first, declined the position and recommended Alexander Hamilton in his place.

As it turns out, Alexander Hamilton was the perfect man for the job. In just a few short years he created the nation’s financial system almost from scratch. Much the nation’s early financial success has been attributed to Hamilton’s brilliant work. To honor him, his portrait has been placed on the ten-dollar bill.

Today the Secretary of the Treasury is Jacob J. Lew. He was nominated by President Barack Obama and was sworn in on February 28, 2013. It is the job of the Secretary of the Treasury to oversee the immense and unwieldy machinery that runs the national economy.

There are many duties entailed by this responsibility. The Department of the Treasury oversees he minting, coinage, and production of all currency in the United States. It also regulates the distribution and production of postage stamps. But really, this is just scratching the surface of the duties of the Department of the Treasury. It regulates every aspect of federal finances, from supervising national banks, prosecuting tax evaders, managing public debt, to collection taxes. That is right, the dreaded Internal Revenue Service is a branch of the Department of the Treasury.

Like most executive departments, the Department of the Treasury is headquartered in Washington D.C. It currently employees almost 120,000 individuals and runs on a budget of $14 billion a year.

Learning about Government: The State Department

The United States Department of State, or as it is most commonly known, the State Department is one of the two original Executive Departments of the United States. It was started in 1789, and was initially called the Department of Foreign Affairs. The head of the State Department is known as the Secretary of State. John Kerry currently serves in the position which is forth in line for presidential succession.

When the United States Constitution was originally drafted, it placed the power to conduct foreign affairs directly into the hand of the President. It quickly became apparently that the job of conducting foreign affairs was a much more complicatedtask than one that could be simply handled on the side by the President. On July 21, 1789, the House of Representative and the Senate both passed legislation approving the creation of the State Department.

It is the job of the State Department to implement and develop the foreign policy decisions of the President. The State Department often works in close proximity to the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. It is the mission of the State Department to:

Advance freedom for the benefit of the American people and the international community by helping to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world composed of well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people, reduce widespread poverty, and act responsibly within the international system”

It is the stated duty of the State Department promote peace, encourage trade with developing nations, and engage in global partnerships which battle against the forces of terrorism, narcotics trafficking, pollution, and nuclear smuggling. A large number of sub-bureaus answer to the State Department including the Bureau of Human Resources and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. To date, the State Department maintains a staff of nearly 75,000 individuals.

Learning about Government: The Department Of Justice

The United States federal departments are part of the executive branch of the federal government. The make up the Cabinet of the United States which serves as a resource and advisory body for the President of the United States. 15 separate departments exists governing everything from the national treasury to the affairs of veterans.

The Justice Department was created in 1870 and is headed by the United States Attorney General. The Attorney General gains nomination from the President but must be confirmed by the Senate. Our current Attorney General Is Loretta Lynch. The Attorney General is seventh in the line of succession for the presidency. The mission for the Department OF Justice goes as follows:

“To enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.”

It is the duty of the Department of Justice and the Attorney General to enforce the laws of the United States and to protect civil liberties. Additionally it is the job of the DOJ to protect intellectual properties and environmental concerns. A recent example of the work of the DOJ can be seen in the investigation and subsequent penalization of the parties involved with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The DOJ also investigates and prosecutes instances of financial fraud and corruption. Interstate and foreign crime also come under the jurisdiction of the DOJ. An additional 59 smaller federal agencies and departments fall under the jurisdiction of the DOJ, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the National Security Department.


Causes of Injury and Death

It is an unfortunate fact that millions of Americans die each and every year. Even here, in one of the safest nations in the entire world, approximately 2.7 million individuals pass away annually. A stagger 75 percent of these deaths can be attributed to 10 simple causes. Accidents and unintentional injuries are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Often accidents and unintentional injuries can end up in court as personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits.

Common Types of Accidents

A majority of accidental deaths can be directly attributed to highway speeding. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stated that highway accidents account for nearly $210 billion dollars of damage annually. Cars are not the only type of vehicle Americans are crashing. The NHTSA also tracks statistics on water, air and space accidents! Understandably, these represent a much smaller percentage of accidents than cars do.

If Americans are not crashing into things, they are finding other ways to accidently injure and kill themselves. The unintended discharge of firearms is the second leading cause of accidental injury and death after collisions. Next up on the list is drowning. Most drownings occur in home pools rather than in natural bodies of water. It is recommended that swimmers always have a buddy nearby. CPR is a noted lifesaving technique.

Falls and fires round out the list of leading causes of accidental injury and death. Home fires alone account for billions of dollars a year in damages and result in thousands of deaths. Well maintained smoke alarms help prevent home fires. It is also recommended that homeowners keep fire extinguishers in the kitchen, garage, and near the laundry facilities.

Physical Activity can keep you Safe on a Long Drive

It has been well established that physical activity can help you live longer. Cardiovascular disease in currently the leading cause of death in America. Physical activity has been directly linked to increased cardiovascular health. But did you also know that physical activity may help you stay safe during a long drive? It is true, and today we will discuss why.

The Dangers of a Long Drive

Accidents, including those which occur in a vehicle, are the number 4 leading cause of death in America. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has that annual highway crashes account for nearly $1 trillion in economic loss. Thousands of individuals die every year on the highway.

Highways are dangerous for a number of reason, first and foremost being the speed at which cars are traveling. Additionally, studies have shown that drivers have a rapidly declining ability to focus as the duration of a drive exceeds 2 hours. Surprisingly, physical activity can directly address the risk factors associated with highway driving!

Benefits of Physical Activity

So how exactly can physical activity help us stay safe on the highway? Through two ways: it increases our ability to focus and it sharpens our reaction time. Physical activity floods our bodies with endorphins which cause a sense of wellbeing and pleasure. This sensation doesn’t just last during exercise. It says with us for days. Increased endorphin circulation has also been linked to an ability to stay focused for long periods of time. Additionally, exercise sharpens our reaction time.

If you are planning on taking a long road trip, one lasting over four hours, it is important to plan out breaks. Every few hours get out of the car and walk around. More strenuous physical activity is ideal, but a simple stroll around a parking area can be enough.

Yuma County Institutes a Ban on Electronic use While Driving

It has become well documented that distracted driving is a growing problem on roads all across America. In fact, many consider distracted driving to be just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Cellphones are one of the leading causes of distracted driving. Drivers know checking Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter while driving is extremely dangerous, but for some reason they can’t seem to stop doing it! In an effort to protect people from themselves, the Yuma City Council has approved a ban on using cellphone and other electronic devices while driving.

Arizona’s Stance on Electronics

Well, Arizona doesn’t really have a stance on the use of electronics while driving. In fact, Arizona is one of only two states in the nation that has not enacted any sort of ban on electronic use while behind the wheel of a car. The responsibility has been left up to individuals counties in the state. Yuma County is among the first to institute a ban.

Specifics of the Electronics Ban

The new ban instituted by Yuma County specifically prohibits drivers from using any handheld electronic device while they are behind the wheel of a car. This is targeted specifically at the use of cellphones and tablets. The ban does not prohibit the use of hands-free devices such as Bluetooth. Additionally, law enforcement officers and emergency officials will not be impacted by the ban. CB and ham radio use has been likewise unaffected.

What you should do

There is just one clear action you should be taking following this ban – stay off of your electronic devices! You should have been avoiding them even before Yuma County instituted the new law. Distracted driving costs lives. Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. Everyone just wants to get home safe, and you can help in that cause.

Tips for Becoming a Great Public Speaker (Part 2)

Public speaking does not come naturally to most people! In fact, for many, speaking in front of a large audience is an absolute nightmare. When the occasion to speak does arise, they are filled with anxiety and fear. No best man speeches here, thank you! It doesn’t have to be that way. Follow our public speaking tips and deliver your next public address with confidence, grace, and a little bit of style.

Consider the Audience

The key to really knocking out a public speaking session, is playing to the audience. They are why you are here after all, aren’t they? Think about the event you are speaking for, the topic you are addressing, and the individuals who are listening. Are they expecting to hear something serious, or would they prefer something fun and entertaining? Tailor your delivery to the audience, and you are sure to be a hit.

Interact with the Audience

We also find it incredibly helpfully to interact with the audience. This breaks down the barriers between you and them, making everyone feel more comfortable. Before you step up to the podium or grab the microphone, shake hands, great people, introduce yourself. Most importantly, don’t forget to smile! People respond to positivity. It may sound silly, but good vibes are contagious, don’t be afraid to spread them around.

Stay Mindful of Posture

This one is difficult for most beginner public speakers. They are so caught up in their delivery, their tone of voice, and the reactions of the audience, that they forget to pay attention to their posture. Stand up straight, keep your shoulders spread wide and attempt to exude and air on confidence. Good posture can actually cause your body to release the cortisol hormone which is linked to feelings of assertiveness and confidence.

Keep all of our easy public speaking tips in mind and you are sure to deliver an incredible address next to you stand in front of an audience! Don’t forget to mentally thank us when you are soaking in the applause.

Tips for Becoming a Great Public Speaker (Part 1)

Public speaking is a skill most attorneys need to master, especially if they intend on becoming litigators or trial attorneys. The ability to speak clearly, concisely, and charismatically in front of a large group of people is not something that comes naturally to many people. They need to practice! At Hastings & Hastings, our attorneys have the art of public speaking just about mastered. Following are some of the tips we used to overcome out fears and develop or skills.

Practice Makes Perfect

There is no substitute for practice. Even if you feel like you are a terrible public speaker, it is a skill that you can learn and get better at over time. Influential writer for The New Yorker, Malcom Gladwell, coined the concept of ’10,000 hours’ which dictates that with 10,000 hours of practice you can become a master at almost anything.

It is important to note, when you are practicing, you need to practice the right way. If you spend 10,000 hours practicing bad habits, you are just going to head in the wrong direction. Recording yourself speaking is a great way to analyze your practice. Play your speech back and try to note ways you can improve.

Find ways to get practical practice in as well. You can deliver a speech to yourself in front of a mirror 100 times, but that is very different from delivering a speech in front of real live people. Practice in front of real people as often as possible, even if it is just your spouse, sister, or roommate. Ask them for constructive criticism. It is likely that they will notice tendencies and ticks you never knew you had. This can help you address and correct small issues before you speak to a large audience.

Check back tomorrow for more tips for becoming a great public speaker!

Learning about Lesser Known Presidents: Benjamin Harrison

When was the last time you had a conversation about the 23rd President of the United States Benjamin Harrison? It has probably been a while, which is understandable. His single term in office has been routinely categorized as ‘uneventful’ while historians often regard him as a below-average president. You don’t have to take their word for it! After reading our brief bio on Benjamin Harrison, decide what you think about the effectiveness of his presidency!

Before his term as president, Benjamin Harrison, who hailed from Indianapolis, Indiana, worked as an attorney, politician, and was as a leader in the local Presbyterian church. During the Civil War he fought for the Union serving as a colonel.

President Harrison’s term in office began on March 4, 1889. He defeated Democratic incumbent Grover Cleveland in the general election. Instead of touring around the country as modern presidential hopefuls do, Benjamin Harrison ran his election bid from his from front porch in Indianapolis where he gave out over ninety pronouncements. President Harrison’s inauguration took place during a torrential downpour. Learning from the mistake of his predecessor William Henry Harrison, Benjamin Harrison gave a rather short address before retreating inside.

President Harrison was a staunch supporter of civil rights. Throughout his administration he fought to attain voting rights for African Americans. He also supported federal education reforms which would provide funding to underprivileged families. Unfortunately, he was largely unsuccessful in reaching any of these goals.

President Harrison also attempted to lower harsh tariffs which had been put in place following the Civil War. He met with some mild success. However, federal spending during his term rose above the one billion dollar mark for the first time in the nation’s history. Despite the fact that the American economy was currently running a surplus, this was considered reckless and the spending was widely derided. Largely because of this, he was unable to secure a second term in office.